Since 1888, National Geographic has covered stories all
over the world. It has been a powerful influence in shaping
American understandings and responses to the outside world.
Through photography and supporting text, it has passively
and actively shaped American opinions on other cultures and
caused us to reflect, by comparison, on our own culture.
National Geographic has been accused of sugar-coating
certain politically-touchy subjects but, all in all, it captivates
its readers and, now, TV viewers, by taking us to places
that we otherwise would never see.
Whether it be traveling into our own back yards or
taking us to Central Asia, it opens the public’s eyes with its
vivid pictures. Photography plays one of the most important
roles in capturing the audience’s attention. By doing so, we
feel as though we are there in the thick of it all. It also
makes us, the reading and viewing public, more aware of
the world around us. National geographic covers stories on
social issues, such as “Women and Population” 1.
The topic of “Women and Population” covers the
question of whether or not high school and day-care belong
together. People from around the country log on and send in
a response to what they believe. Active participation such as
this is important to bring a country together. There are
those, on the other hand, who feel it does the opposite.
Two Authors who believe this are Catherine A. Lutz
and Jane L. Collins. They wrote a book called “Reading
National Geographic” 2. In it they explore the connections
between editorial intent both conscious -- and the meaning
people make of this Particular text. They find the persistence
of two deeply-linked nineteenth-century credos: A faith in
progress and a belief in social Darwinism. They portray
National Geographic as believing that the “ beautification of
the world’s people allows readers to congratulate themselves
on their cultured tastes, their paternalism and their humane,
tolerant appreciation of ethic others.” 3. In other words, the
United States being a superpower gives them the right to
analyze cultures problems for their perception. In addition, it
is the belief of National Geographic that it is the West’s duty
to change the rest of the world to fit our lifestyle. Catherine
and Jane make powerful points to support their stand on
National Geographics Social Darwinists tendencies.
Nevertheless, National Geographic has used their power and
influence to create grants for Research and Exploration.
In 1997 alone National Geographic aided in awarding
more than 200 grants for Research and Exploration. In this
year Maya villagers from Belize were among the grantees.
Supported in part by the society, villagers compiled and
edited a regional atlas. By mapping their own landscape and
cultural patterns, they can better understand-and cope
with-issues of development and conservation that will affect
their lives and the lives of their children.